Men Self-Conscious About Bodies Too, Study Says
Women are notorious for stressing their physical appearance but it seems the fellas are becoming upset about expanding waist lines and sagging breasts.
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By Sloane Joseph
May 5, 2004
It is nearly impossible to detach one’s self from the promoted depiction of the perfect body without completely shutting out the mainstream. The bottom line is sex sells and we are constantly inundated with these images that we’ve been taught are sexy. This has had a significantly negative effect on our society according to numerous psychological studies.
We are becoming self-conscious and at the same time losing self-confidence. The dominance of these idealistic representations of the human body is no more apparent than in Manhattan. Whether you’re in Times Square, the East Village, Harlem, or Washington Heights, or even in your own living room you will find these “perfect” bodies. We are left with ourselves in the mirror, trying to stand so we look slimmer, so our pecs look bigger and ultimately we are disappointed when that doesn’t quite cut it.
A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical and Social Psychology measured the results of exposing 158 men to images that depicted both sexy male bodies and neutral male body images. Researchers began the study following other research on the effect of media on female self-esteem, noting, “Mass media are believed to be a pervasive force in shaping physical appearance ideals and have been shown to negatively impact females' body image.” In this study researchers found that males experience a similar sense of disappointment and depression concerning their own physical fitness or even the sex appeal.
“Results indicated that participants exposed to ideal image advertisements became significantly more depressed and had higher levels of muscle dissatisfaction than those exposed to neutral ads.”
Our image-conscious consumer society plagues us with these afflictions of lacking self-confidence and depression. We are left constantly chasing the carrot of perfect physical appearance, never tasting the immediate and real rewards that physical activity offers. It is hard to step out of this cycle, but it is not impossible. In fact, it is crucial to our own wellbeing that we become less image-conscious and more aware of how our body feels and functions. Our physical fitness is not ultimately defined by the ripples in our abdomen; but, rather, by the way that our physical activity and diet affects our overall health.
One’s physique is certainly indicative of physical fitness. Men who work out and eat balanced diets have more fit looking bodies, however this is not the be-all-end-all. It is just a result of taking care of one’s self. It is difficult though, to separate ourselves from our physical appearance because quite often we are judged by how we look. Of course, it’s desirable to be sexually attractive but isn’t it also sexy to be self-confident?
When we exercise, whether it is going for a walk, practicing yoga, or lifting weights, we feel better about ourselves. If the activity is performed on a consistent basis, our bodies become stronger more flexible and ultimately more healthy, which positively affects our own estimation of self worth. It is imperative that you do not compare yourself with the muscle-head curling 8,000 pounds or with that billboard model who looks so good in his underwear. It’s not about him. It’s about you.
We need to work out of this image-conscious understanding and just start working out and feeling better about being a real man.
“The Impact of Media Exposure on Males' Body Image,” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. February 2004.